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University Of South Carolina Ordered To Revise Discrimination Policies

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina has agreed with the Justice Department to revise its policies to better deal with student complaints of discrimination and harassment.

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it examined university policies for handling such complaints after receiving a report of discrimination by a student organization.

A department spokeswoman did not specify which organization or the specific nature of the complaint and refused further comment. The university did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Under the 13-page agreement, the university will hire an outside consultant to help revise its policies in time for the start next year's fall semester. Administrators, faculty and students will then be trained in the new policies during the 2012 spring semester.

The agreement signed Monday by Thomas Stepp, the secretary of the university's board of trustees, said a consultant will review all written university policies including those dealing with student organizations and filing of student grievances.

Within six months, the consultant will prepare a report for approval by both the university and the Justice Department with new policies to deal with harassment, discrimination and complaint resolution.

The subsequent training, among other things, will include reviews of both state and federal laws and the responsibility of students, faculty and staff when they see discriminatory or harassing behavior.

The agreement requires the university to file compliance reports with the Justice Department twice a year through the end of 2013. It also gives the department the authority to evaluate compliance through site visits and interviews with students and most employees.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez praised the university for entering into the agreement and said students must have equal access to educational opportunities.

"Public institutions must adopt policies and procedures that allow them to identify and respond to allegations of discrimination and harassment in a reasonable, timely and effective manner," he said.

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